Oak Ridge gets Internet2 link

The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee this month got its own 10-Gbps connection to the Internet2 research network.

The fiber link, supplied by Qwest Communications International Inc., connects the department's Energy Sciences Network with Internet2 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Southeastern universities and researchers will access Energy's computing capacity for projects ranging from biology to climate modeling and nuclear fission.

'We've got big projects that depend heavily on professors and graduate students around the country, and anything that improves our communication is a good thing,' said Bill Wing, a senior researcher in the networking group of the lab's Computer Science and Mathematics Division.

Internet2 provides 2.4-Gbps transport over most of its connections. It will not reach 10-Gbps OC-192 rates until later this year. At 10 Gbps, a file the size of the three-hour film 'Gone with the Wind' could be transmitted in six seconds. But raw speed is not the only consideration.

'In high-capacity networking, hop counts and latency matter as much as bandwidth,' Wing said. 'Getting ourselves a local loop to Atlanta lets us make significant improvements on all those metrics.'

At the Oak Ridge end of the loop is Cheetah, a supercomputer built from IBM Power4 processors that can execute up to 4.5 trillion floating-point operations per second'currently the eighth-fastest system in the world. Using Cheetah, researchers at Oak Ridge and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have doubled the resolution of their climate studies.

Can't slow down

Oak Ridge also announced this month that it is working with supercomputer vendor Cray Inc. of Seattle to develop the world's fastest computer'the Cray X1, spokesman Ron Walli said.

'Technology transfer is a big push for Oak Ridge,' he said.

Access points to the 10-Gbps link at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga also will spur growth there. A number of companies in the area grew directly out of technology transfer from Oak Ridge, Walli said.

ESnet and the Oak Ridge Internet2 link will serve as a high-speed networking test bed and a production network, said Thomas Zacharia, associate lab director for Oak Ridge's Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate.

High-speed networks both drive and are driven by high-speed computing, he said.

'Soon we'll need to transport petabyte-size files, and this network will be crucial,' Zacharia said. He expects the new link can handle computing needs 'for the next five to 10 years.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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